Jane Doane (nee Bell)

Jane Doane

Portrait by Robert Howson

In the world of sports, there are bound to be winners and losers. For the best athletes, there are times when their achievements go beyond the playing fields to change the world.

Florence Jane Bell, a long time Guelph resident, was part of Canada’s remarkable Olympic team at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. It was the first time Canadian women were allowed to compete in track and field for medals, an opportunity that Bell and teammates Myrtle Cook, Ethel Smith and Bobbie Rosenfeld relished.

Her love of sport started at a young age. In 1925, she finished first in eight of the nine sports she was registered for. She was a member of the Toronto Ladies relay team that traveled to Philadelphia and tied the world record. At the first Canadian championships for women, she set a national record in the 50-yard hurdles.

But the 1928 Olympics became her defining moment. Racing the 4 x 100 relay with her teammates she ran the third leg giving her team a comfortable lead before handing off to Myrtle Cook for the anchor leg. The foursome set a world record in the event at 48.4 seconds. “Of all the things that have happened to me in my lifetime – I don’t think I was ever as proud and as thrilled as when I stood and saw our flag going up and see the four of us with tears” said Bell. When the team arrived in Toronto, it was greeted at Union Station in Toronto by 200,000 people.

Sports historian Ron Hotchkiss has written a book about Bell and the five other women competing for Canada in track and field during the 1928 Olympics called the “Matchless Six” for their domination of their sports in their prime.

Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Veteran Athlete category – on May 14, 2008